The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian-Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, has called on media owners and employers in Nigeria to provide minimum Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their reporters who daily cover the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on the observance of the World Press Freedom Day in Nigeria, held 5 May 2020, via a webinar titled, “Journalism without fear or favour in the period of pandemic”, Mr Kallon said that “Media entrepreneurs must take the issue of welfare and safety of journalists more seriously, at this time of pandemic and at all time.”
The webinar, organised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Abuja, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Channels Television and the UN Information Centre (UNIC) Nigeria, had sixty-eight participants and speakers in attendance, including the Director of UNESCO Abuja Regional Office, Mr Yao Ydo; Chairman, Channels Television, Dr John Momoh; President of NUJ, Mr Chris Isiguzo; President of Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Mr. Charles B Coffey; President, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Mr. Ahmed Sahid Nasralla; and President of Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Mr. Roland Affail Monney.
The Resident Coordinator observed that journalists across the world, including Nigeria had been reported infected with COVID-19 in the line of duty. “If we want journalism without fear or favour, media employers and entrepreneurs must be assuring in their duty of care to their reporters.” He said
In his message on World Press Freedom Day delivered by Mr Kallon, the UN secretary-General Antonio Guterres, called on governments to protect media workers, and to strengthen and maintain press freedom, which is essential for a future of peace, justice and human rights for all.
“We particularly recognize those who are playing a life-saving role reporting on public health.” The Secretary General continued, “We thank the media for providing facts and analysis; for holding leaders – in every sector – accountable; and for speaking truth to power.”
Guterres further called on governments and others, to guarantee that journalists can do their jobs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. “The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.” He added.
Dr Momoh, in his keynote address, charged journalists not to fear to do their work and not to work out of fear. “In the face of this pandemic, the media should be daring with its investigation, factual with its reports, courageous in the face of danger, and calculative in risk taking.” He said
The Channels TV boss, therefore, called for media training on the preventive techniques of covering a pandemic as deadly as COVID-19.
Delivering the message of UNESCO Director General, Ms Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Abuja Regional Director noted that “At a time when we are mired in worry and uncertainty because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, free information is essential to helping us face, understand, think about and overcome this crisis.”
According to him, “We must consider the vital importance of information in this situation: informing the public means giving everyone the means of combatting the illness by adopting appropriate practices.”